Resources for an Empowered Cycle and Sex Life
It's been six years since I went off the birth control pill, and in those years, I have been in an ever-unfolding process of reclaiming my menstrual cycle. I have also had to navigate pregnancy prevention in my sex life without the use of synthetic hormonal birth control or an IUD.
These experiences have led me to seek out external information and educational resources and as well as direct my attention internally to intuition and body wisdom. It has also led to many conversations with people on the very subjects- menstruation, reconnecting with your cycle after birth control, and pregnancy prevention in sex. In light of recent conversations, it's really dawning on me...
The power of understanding the female hormonal cycle - and how many may lack this understanding.
Many are in the dark about their own bodies. Not for lack of intelligence or wisdom. Not even for lack of interest. But rather, there has been so much ignorance, misinformation, shame and suppression around this topic, we may not even think to take interest. We may not even realize the possibility of having a deeper understanding of our body (unless we are trying to get pregnant, and even then...). While the processes I am referring to are specific to people who menstruate, it is valuable to all people, especially if you are in a relationship with someone who menstruates.
For many, health and sex education pushed abstinence, and STDs and pregnancy were used as fear factors. At the time when we were ripe to absorb information and learn about the miraculous changes happening in our bodies, it got left out, brushed past, or even demonized in health classes. So, as young people, unless we had a wise person in our lives sharing more practical information with us, we moved on with a lack of understanding without really knowing any better.
A whole other issue is how heavily the conventional medical system pushes synthetic hormonal or invasive birth control and touts them as the solution to many concerns regarding the menstrual cycle and various health issues. (That's for another blog). Birth control is not something that I want for my body, and I support individual autonomy to choose what is right and best for your own health and body. This blog post is mostly for people who are curious about life off conventional birth control and looking for other options.
On the journey of reclaiming my menstrual cycle and sex life, I have come to value hormonal balance and health, and even more specifically, ovulation. With regards to sex, if you familiarize yourself with your body's patterns, you can start to recognize the time that you are ovulating.
The time that you are ovulating is the only time you can become pregnant. Ovulation is a 12-24 hour window, and because sperm can live in the uterus under favorable conditions for 5-7 days, if you are having sex, your fertile window is more like a week. Because we ovulate once per cycle, pregnancy is only possible one week during each cycle.
For some, this is obvious. For others, their sex education was lacking and/or they were fed misinformation that suggested pregnancy is a risk at all times. That being said, it does take commitment to track your cycle to start to be able to recognize ovulation. The body is not predictable, and not all of us have clockwork cycles.
Don't throw caution to the wind, but if you are curious about reclaiming your body and maintaining safe sex without hormonal or invasive birth control, there are ways and there are options for you!
Like many others, I was in the dark for most of my life with a surface level understanding, up until my early 20s when I first contemplated getting off birth control, influenced by my work in holistic nutrition. Everything I have learned around the specifics of the menstrual cycle and its phases, hormone balance, and natural pregnancy prevention has been my own effort, creating a relationship with my body, and connecting with others and support systems on this path- finding classes, workshops, books, online resources, etc.
It has been so impactful for me, and I feel people so hungry for this information, which is why I share my journey. In light of recent conversations, I wanted to share specifically on pregnancy prevention.
I am still very much on this learning journey myself and have come across some amazing resources for cycle tracking and understanding ovulation, which is a key factor in being able to either prevent or increase chances of conception during sex.
This is my number one resource. It breaks down the specifics of tracking your cycle and so much more. From Lisa's website:
"It aims to better connect women with their menstrual cycles and to break the myth that ovulation is only important when you're ready to have a baby."
Fertility Awareness Mastery is the workbook companion for this book. Knowing when you are fertile means knowing when to avoid or increase chances of pregnancy. Lisa Hendrickson-Jack is an amazing leader in this work and has many related offerings. Check out her podcast!
2. Threaded Red, by Laura Carmody (online resource)
Being a member of the Virtual Red Tent community with Laura has shaped my relationship with my cycle in a huge way! In addition to the membership, she offers various classes and trainings as a means to connect with this work. Specific to the subject, check out her course on Ovulation and Fertility Signals. Again, knowing when you are fertile means knowing when to avoid or increase chances of pregnancy.
3. Fertility Awareness Method
Alright, last time I'll say it: knowing when you are fertile (ovulating) means knowing when to avoid or increase chances of pregnancy. Also known as Natural Family Planning, you can use it for the opposite reason of starting a family as well. Lisa Hendrickson-Jack offers great resources for this.
Additional books and resources:
Menstrual Cycle Tracking Apps (I use Clue)
My hope is that these resources help get you started or offer additional support. I am sure there is so much more out there that I have yet to access, and if you have additional resources to add to this, please feel free to contact me and share them. I am always looking to broaden my understanding and information sources.
This isn't always the easiest journey, but I can say from personal experience, it leads to a more embodied and deeply connected life experience, which has in turn brought so much joy and vitality. Know you are not alone, you have options, and you are on the path to creating a more connected, intimate, empowered, and embodied life experience. Onward with the reclamation!
Cover Image: "A human egg bursts forth from an ovary..." by SayoStudio All links I have shared are purely volunteer without paid compensation. Do the Earth a favor and boycott Amazon: buy your books directly from the author or used!
Please note: We all must do what is right and best for our own health and body, and that can be very different from person to person. I am not a doctor. This is not a prescribed plan. I am sharing my personal story and methods based on my experiences as a menstruating woman. Please check in with your body, a trusted healthcare provider, and do the research when addressing health concerns.